More Thoughts on Manners

More Thoughts on Manners

The weather around here has been absolutely dreadful and it seems that the East Coast is sharing its misery with many parts of the country.  Just recently I learned that many people in Atlanta were hit by snowstorm Leon (we were hit with Janus a week back) and the city was crippled.  The shutdown of the city made me think about human nature.  Citizens went out of their way to help others in distress:

  • School workers staying to care for stranded students
  • Drug store employees opening up store for overnight patrons
  • Drivers helping other drivers stuck or sliding on icy roads

This kind of thoughtful behavior warms my heart.  This is a level of common decency that I wish we saw more of.  To be sure, society is much more casual than in my parents’ heyday.  Heck, even in the 90s men still opened doors for women entering buildings.  But then again, I was living in the Texas, which is a whole ‘nother country, as the saying goes. To be sure, modern feminists argue that they don’t need a man to open a door for them or pull out a chair, can we see a little more common decency in the every day world and not just during emergencies?

Wonder why I’m being so serious and thoughtful? It’s because of this book: Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top by Dorothea Johnson.

modern manners

In the 90s I worked on an Air Force base interacting with high ranking men and women. Outside of the military this might not seem like much to you, but imagine them to be like minor celebrities in your world. So, at this military installation you cannot address Donna by her first name when in public. You must call her title (rank actually): Sergeant Smith or Captain Smith, etc.  I learned this lesson the hard way and it only took one admonishment to help me retain it. You could relate this situation to addressing your church’s religious leader, pastor or priest by their first name in public. This, my friends, is not done. Even though Father John or Reverend Smith might have been at your house for dinner last night, he’s still addressed by his title in public. And the fact that you know this and follow this rule is called manners. Easy, huh?

Not convinced? Think of the number of people who still address their parents and grandparents by affectionate titles. You don’t hear too many 50 year old women calling their own mothers Doris, do you? Of course not! This rule does not apply to the families who call their parents by their first names. My son has a friend who calls her parents by their first names. It’s a foreign concept to my family but my son respects his friend’s wishes and calls her parents by their first names also. See? There is that word again: respect.

Here’s a sticky question for you: Now that you’re an adult, how do you greet adults who were your teachers when you were a kid?  As an adult I’ve reconnected with some of my high school band teacher on Facebook and joined the crowd by calling him by his first name.  How very weird it felt at first. Aw heck who am I kidding, still does.

What about you? Still calling Mr. and Mrs So and so by their last names? Why or why not?

Books Children

Thoughts on Manners

I’ve always been interested in manners. I’ve studied manners since I was a child: how to address dignitaries, which fork to use, and how to shake hands  are subjects I’ve studied. To be sure, I’ve yet to meet the Queen or a foreign dignitary, however, I did see Her Majesty when she rode by with her entourage in downtown San Antonio in the 90s.

Over the course of my career and personal life, I’ve had the opportunity to engage in many situations in which I’ve used the manners I learned as a child or have had to acquire quickly so as not to look like a buffoon.  As social mores become more relaxed than ever, you may think that there is no need for manners; after all, women aren’t wearing gloves anymore and don’t require a man to pull out their chair. Given our more relaxed society, I say that manners are needed even more. Everyone values respect: gangs fight over it, men fight when their women are disrespected, and minority groups all over the globe fight for the respect they deserve.

Manners may help you avoid an accidental disrespect (hence the slang term ‘dis’) of someone and potential embarrassment or gang fight or lost job opportunity.  Additionally, with the globe becoming smaller we are interacting more with people of different values and cultures (and yummy food) and it’s important we treat others as we’d like to be treated (am I channeling something your mother used to say?).  And that treatment is called respect. And how do you manifest respect?


I’ve recently finished the book: Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top by Dorothea Johnson and I thought it might be interesting to begin a discussion about manners.

modern manners

I’ll discuss manners, etiquette, and protocol in subsequent posts.  Additionally, I teach a manners lesson monthly to little tea party goers at the bookstore, which is more about having fun, but somehow, they get it.

I hope you’ll join me in this manners discussion.  Tell me the ONE manners rule you abide by EVERY DAY.

I’ll start:  I say good morning or good evening to everyone I meet.

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